Who is your brother? Who is mine? In 1 John 2:9-11, the author, John the Apostle makes a clear statement about how we should love our brothers.
The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.1 John 2:9-11 NASB
I just read a dozen commentaries or maybe more on this. I don’t see any valid explanation for suggesting the word translated “brother” means another Christ-follower. When I first became a Christian, I hated truck drivers. But the more I worked around them and prayed for them, the more Jesus gave me a love for them.
Is It Love, or a Project?
I think many Christians look down on people who don’t follow Jesus. We go to work every day, but we do our best to keep “the world” from affecting us. We can’t wait to get off of work and run back to our suburb and our Christian friends. Our actions tell people who don’t follow Jesus that we “love” them but our love is more like a project. We don’t choose to be with them but we choose to do something for them. We don’t prefer them.
For example, the Wycliffe Bible Commentary: New Testament says that brother means “Fellow Christian, not fellow man (though sometimes in the NT “brother” means fellow man, as Mt 5:22; Lk 6:41).” They offer no additional commentary on this term in this passage. I found no other commentary that gave a reasonable explanation how this specific use of the Greek words translated “brother” could mean “fellow Christ-follower” other than to site other places in the Bible where it does. And most of those other places weren’t even by the same author!
Is My Brother Another Christ Follower?
The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his fellow man is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his fellow man abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his fellow man is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.1 John 2:9-11 using the NASB with “fellow man” substituted for “brother”
In some places in the Bible, there are specific references to the term brother. Some take these to mean, “someone who follows and trusts Jesus,” but, I don’t see any evidence of that. However, I do understand why the world criticizes Christians for claiming to be about love, without actually loving people outside the church. I wonder if God allows tension between people who follow Jesus and those who do not to help us see that we must love everyone or the true Light of Jesus isn’t in us.
Is My Brother All Fellow Men?
Could it be that we consider John to mean “brother Christ-follower” so that we don’t have to love people who are not like us? What if John meant “fellow man” instead of “fellow Christ-follower”? Then does this passage mean we need to invest in and appreciate the people we interact with every day? Wouldn’t this command challenge us to love people who are different than we are? Wouldn’t this command suggest that our race to the suburbs every evening is a poor showing of the Light in us?
Would you share your thoughts on this below? Could I be out of line? Or do we need to remember everyone is our brother or sister and we need to love them because we follow Jesus?